I hemmed and hawed: do I write something or should I let the images speak for themselves? As a photographer, you hope that your pictures are strong enough to tell the whole story. When shooting a restaurant, it’s possible to do this. A five day trip to Alaska, however, is more challenging. While I want to give these images some context, to provide a play by play of the week’s events would result in an epic entry. So, I’ll try to keep things concise.
Cordova is located 160 miles southeast of Anchorage. It is only accessible by plane or boat, which, surprisingly, doesn’t seem to effect tourism as much as one would expect. The population, I was told, is approximately 6,000. That number, however, decreases significantly, to 2,500, during the winter months. Salmon fishing is their main industry, with an estimated 480 drift gillnet permits participating this summer. In addition, there are local and state organizations developed to assist the fisheries and preserve the area’s natural resources, such as the Copper River Watershed Project, which “works to foster the health of the Copper River watershed’s salmon-based communities, economies and cultures.” In addition, there’s the Department of Fishing and Gaming, which “manages approximately 750 active fisheries” and “foster[s] the highest standards of scientific integrity and promote innovative sustainable fish and wildlife management programs to optimize public uses and economic benefits.” You will also see some images of a fish and game sonar station, located near Child’s Glacier and the Million Dollar Bridge (also featured in the post), where, over the course of the season, three researchers each work eight hour shifts to track the salmon and other wildlife that pass through the river.
There are five different species of wild Alaskan salmon: King (aka Chinook), which is red in color and high in omega-3s, Sockeye, pictured below at the salmon filleting demo, Coho (aka Silver), which are a bright orange-red color, and Chum and Pink, both of which are less oily and not as flavorful (making them the least profitable).
Walking down the streets of Cordova, you’ll see folks waving at each other. Towards the end of my time there, this happened on quite a few occasions. I’d be in town and would see someone I’d met the day before. Big hellos and hugs. Friendly. Welcoming. I’d never thought that Cordova, being as remote as it is, would be a place I’d feel connected to. But that’s exactly how I felt: like a part of a community. And it’s one that I hope to return to in the future.